#Lesson 2: European style – why I looked like the foreign exchange student last week?
May 17th, 2017
I miss dressing up – I do. When I was still new to European life I packed up all my heels and dresses to
bring with me, now hardened with age I have but one single pair of high heels here – yet to be worn. My
party heels collection is gathering dust in Ireland, only to be taken out for a jaunt a couple of times a year.
But wait, it’s not all bad… I’m working on appearing more chic in an understated way that French girls
make look so natural but actually it requires very specific efforts to gain this ‘allure’. I work for a well-
known French brand which is known to be the pinnacle of elegance and so whether I liked it or not I had to
try and blend in – synthetic ballet pumps simply would not cut it and so I am now an avid believer in buy
less but spend more, otherwise known as ‘investment pieces’.
I am not afraid to admit that I will never purchase a pair of plastic/pleather shoes again. Yep, I have
become or am trying to become a European shoe snob – not to wield it over people but just because its
fashionably and economically the sensible thing to do – this needn’t involve breaking the bank either if you
put in the online research. Today it is easier than ever to get good quality for less, I especially love
Amazons made in italy’ section for bags and shoes that will last you more than one season without having
to make that plane journey to the holy grail of shoes that is Italy.
The style on mainland Europe is noticeably understated.
Caption: Pre- European style: à la backcomb hair avec bronzage
Kristen Scott Thomas the Oscar winning English actress who converted to French life had some points which I have
to agree with in her interview with Marie Claire , the interview was in French but she complained about the ‘tout le
bronzage’ when she returns back home. Indeed the ‘bronzage’ is rife and I have spoken about this in my
previous post …
“Qu’est ce que la beauté à la française et quelle est la différence avec la beauté à l’anglaise ?”
“What is French beauty and what is the difference between that and English beauty?”
“Les Anglaises, elles, sont beaucoup plus soucieuses de ce qui est à la mode. Elles suivent les dernières
tendances quitte à toutes se ressembler !”
“The English women, on the other hand, are much more anxious about what is fashionable. They follow
the latest trends leaving them all looking the same!”
I tend to agree that sometimes we can be ‘slaves to a trend’, like now this ‘Kardashian-esque’ tracksuit bottom
trouser thing? We all know it looks hideous and it will die out but when I go home I’m seeing it everywhere and it’s
true that following trends religiously makes everyone a bit clone like – choker anyone?
So it brings me to my recent weekend in Dublin… It was a Friday night, maybe I have been on the continent too
long but it didn’t occur to me to change my clothes that day (I had started the day in the Netherlands and by the
time I reached Dublin I didn’t much feel like changing). So I found myself perched on the end of a sofa in 37 Dawson
street that Friday night in my Breton striped sweater, a black skirt, black tights and flat ankle boots and of course a
large Longchamp bag (because you know they are just so practical for all occasions).
Caption: Post European style a la monochrome
I was there with my recently returned to Ireland friend who also lived on the continent for some years and my
boyfriend. So the three of us are there sipping beers, myself and my friend are in similar casual style -flat leather
boots, a Longchamp backpack (obvs) and various Massimo Dutti clothing items.
A gaggle of bronzed/chokered girls make their way over and plonk themselves down on the sofa “Scooch over
there will ya” the ringleader says to my bf. At this point it is him and about four girls wedged together on the sofa, I
am perching on a stool at the end. Ringleader is obviously very dressed up in comparison to me and draws her
attentions to aforementioned bf. I can make out that she is chatting a mile a minute with huge laughs whilst
slapping his knee – I can tell by his expression he does not have a clue what is going on.
Meanwhile I’m just minding my own business – finally the ringleader of the gaggle gives a ‘howarya!’ to us. She
explains she is on a hen party (the outfits had already given this away) – she then enquires where we are from?
Ringleader is surprised to discover we are actually Irish too despite our lack of flesh on display, she looks at our
outfits with dismay as I clutch my weather appropriate coat.
After the niceties are exchanged and the gaggle of girls depart the sofa for jaeger bombs a realisation dawns on
me! All those years ago in Belfast night establishments when there was a group of ethnically assorted very casually
dressed people in the corner nursing their craft beer whilst I judged them from my studded hot pants pedestal….
THAT WAS NOW ME …Alas the tables had turned and I had become the dreaded underdressed foreign exchange kid
in my own country.
If you are to take any nuggets of wisdom away from this story, please let it be this:
The next time when you’re frequenting your local watering hole and you see those foreign casual kids in the corner
– give them a friendly smile… it could be you one day.